The Case for Experience in 2018

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash
Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

Here are three areas that RAPP's global CEO is resolving to be more tuned into, and part of the solution for.

As the father of two boys, I am in the part-time business of dispensing advice. Some of the time it is actually listened to. 

One of my areas of "expertise" is in the career department, especially as it relates to the industry I’ve been in for nearly 30 years. I tell my sons this: If you want to get a job in marketing, you need to understand people. And the best place to do that is the workplace, not just text books or undergraduate university.

Now, I don’t mean to say that text books and undergraduate universities are bad, because I don’t want my sons thinking they can just skip university all together. But the "peril" of universities lies in students spending too much time listening to points of view from people who potentially aren’t always grounded in what real things are happening in society.

I’m a big advocate of a gap year—using that time to take on an apprenticeship or travel. I believe in the importance of actual engagement with people to better understand the world we live in. There is a benefit to meeting people from all cultures and backgrounds, especially in our tightly-linked world. That time spent gaining experience leads to being better at managing people and inspiring people because you’ve got more emotional intelligence. 

Experience is a valued commodity in our business. It is the one thing that gives you a better chance of understanding how clients and consumers think and feel. You need to be close to the ground and understand people, human instincts and insights in the real world. Ultimately, that’s what our business is about, after all, and those different experiences allow you to delve deeper into consumer wants and needs. 

Experience is also constantly, rapidly changing—a well-researched university text book becomes obsolete as soon as it lands on the desks of students in classrooms—which is why real-world experience is paramount. So, in the vein of "what my experience teaches me," while considering valuable experiences for my boys, I considered some valuable lessons for myself. Here are three areas that I am resolving to be more tuned into, and part of the solution for, in 2018. 

The battle for talent
I don’t think we are nearer to solving the shortage of talent at the agency level. In advertising, we tend to believe that everyone will want to work in our creative world. And the reality is there are more brands operating in this space than ever before. So, the pint-half-full side of me says the market size for talent is bigger than ever before. But, the fact is we have to work harder to say why they should choose our environment. All of us need to work harder to get the talent to keep their heads turned toward us and not have their heads turned by the consultants or other fields, which—rather inexplicably—now claim creative environments. 

At RAPP we will double down on our efforts to be more proactive about getting to market and looking at more nontraditional routes such as scaling intern programs.

Nothing short about relevance
A cottage industry has spawned out of people talking about what millennials can and cannot do. One point that arose at the ANA this year is the notion that increasingly shorter attention spans require shorter spots. 

I think saying you have six seconds or less to make an impression is nonsense. 

If there is no relevance in the message, then you will lose people in two seconds—irrespective of age. I know many millennials and GenZs who will stay highly focused in a good discussion or debate if it is relevant. You can keep this audience engaged if you understand what is important to them—and even more so if you recognize that they’ll gravitate toward brands that stand for something. That is one of the fundamentals of good marketing—knowing your audience. We are not necessarily in a complicated business. But we over complicate it by precipitating fear as opposed to really creating relevance. 

I would challenge our clients to take educated risks and to have an appetite for the bold. Rely on the experience and knowledge of those people with whom you’ve entrusted your business.

The Three-Year Rule
One of the things I look for on a CV is how often a person changed jobs. To me that’s a good indicator of a person’s level of commitment. The ideal number for me is three years. That gives you just enough time to get stuck in on your role and to begin to make a tangible difference. It tells me you aren’t motivated by self-interest. I am not naive though. I understand that very often job satisfaction requires searching for the right fit. That said, if a pattern emerges that you are moving about frequently then I begin to wonder how much dedication someone has to their colleagues and clients. In the year ahead, I plan on applying this review of new hires with greater rigor. 

The last thing I might counsel is patience, which is especially hard for some. I would point out that loyalty pays off dividends of trust. Those that demonstrate a willingness to be part of a team over time are given roles and responsibilities that raise their visibility and develop a rapport with clients and colleagues alike. With time in and experience gained these opportunities translate into promotion. 

That last point I can’t stress enough—it was the best advice that my father ever gave to me. 

Marco Scognamiglio is Global CEO at RAPP.

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